Friday, June 05, 2009

The Wheels on the People Mover go Round and Round, Round and Round, Round ...

Billboard advertising the "People Mover"
"We have a monorail but it doesn't really go anywhere", the owner of a downtown Detroit coffee shop explained with a sad face. "It sort of just goes round and round and if you want to exactly go anywhere you don't get on it." Exactly...

He was referring to Detroit's "People Mover". There's something very American in the choice of "People Mover" for Detroit's elevated monorail. Direct and primitive - in a Grandma Moses kind of way.

But we got on the Mover anyway - after all, we had nowhere to go and having come a long way for our "Michigan Vacation", we didn't want to miss anything. It was fun. We got on at Broadway Station and got off at Broadway Station. We passed through places with names like "Greek Town Station" (where the Greeks are), The Financial District Station (where the banks are), "Bricktown Station" (where there were lots of houses made of brick) and "Michigan Station" (where no one could figure out what was uniquely there).

Kindergarten names for a definitely un-kindergarten city.

We'd stayed the night at a hotel opposite General Motors headquarters. Fittingly we arrived in Detroit on the day that GM revealed it may file for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11.

The Riverside - In Better Days
The crumbling facade of the Riverside Hotel was nothing like the photo displayed on the hotel's website. Inside a few workers were hanging around the reception desk in the huge and deserted hotel lobby - on duty to explain even before we had time to speak, that we didn't HAVE TO stay, that we'd get our money back. That there was no A/C but "maintenance was working on it". Sure ...

We stayed nevertheless. Who would have the heart to go elsewhere? After all, as we were later to learn, the few remaining staff hadn't been paid for weeks and couldn't leave as they would not get unemployment if they did as you can only get unemployment benefits if you don't leave voluntarily.

The next day having "done Detroit" we travelled across country to Grand Rapids. I've heard that name many times in my life and am sure it is a famous place but don't know for what. So we drove through its downtown twice and then left. It is fun being an American. You are spared the effort of thinking of words and you can see places very efficiently. Having "done" Grand Rapids we proceeded to the Great Lake, "Lake Michigan", appropriately named in a Grandma Moses kind of way.

Lake Michigan is magnificent. It's like an ocean. Miles and miles of water, or as a real American would say, a "big bunch of water". The third largest of the Great Lakes (Lake Superior,Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario), Lake Michigan has a combined surface area larger than the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Taken from car using Google's G1 - not bad!
By the time we got to where Lake Michigan joins Lake Huron, connected by the Mackinac Bridge (the third longest suspension bridge in the world) we were laked-out, and so after only four days on the road, we drove back across the bridge towards Detroit on the lake (Huron) coastal road.

The lake landscape changed from being Lake Michigan on the left to Lake Huron on the left.

Jo commented on the barns, which coming from Australia and Europe, he'd never seen. We have "sheds" in OZ, and in Europe the barns have a different shape. I love the American barns. They are straight out of the comic books of my childhood. I always expect to see Huey, Dewy and Louie quacking out of them, in their Disney kind of way.

We'd seen plenty of red barns and lakes, inlets and lakes and bays, orchards, blueberry bushes, and had eaten well.

Fish take out
Fish Take Out and Market, Michigan
Our last dinner meal was a take-out and I can vouch that there's nothing like this in Manhattan! Jo bought some smoked fish. I stayed in the car and took some photos.

We had our last Michigan breakfast in a diner. It was a Sunday and the place was packed with Midwestern churchgoers.

"Why did you choose to vacation in Michigan?" one of the friendlier ones asked, obviously bemused.

"Oh," my husband answered. "It's my wife you see. She does things in an odd way. Last trip she chose Galveston and when I asked her why, she told me it was because of the song. This time she heard about the unemployment in Michigan and thought it's be a good place to go to."

Friendly Midwesterners in Diner
The Midwesterners just smiled in their Midwestern kind of way. I gave my husband a mean look, in my New York kind of way...

The following day we awoke to news of GM filing for bankruptcy. A fitting end to our Michigan adventure. It sort of sewed it up into a bundle with a beginning and a middle and an end.

My English teachers at school always insisted that a good story is composed of a beginning, a middle and an end.

I started this Letter from New York with a comment about the American English language and so, Mrs Rascha, if you are still of this world, please note. I am ending with a comment on American English - AND a picture.

The vacation was truly awesome - in a Grandma Moses American kind of way.

1 comment:

Bill said...

Vacation in Detroit? Why fer Chrissakes? Gotta start somewhere, I s'pose.
Might as well vacation in Nogales, AZ. Well, I guess there is the Lake. The hotel sounded very depressing.
But the rest of Michigan looks interesting. Where I live, I'm surrounded by Middle-Westerners. Very different, a bit like Western New South Welshmen - bushies.

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